Today’s readings are all about God’s great mercy. If you have never read the Diary of St. Faustina or Volumes by Anne, the Lay Apostle, I highly recommend them both. They delve deeper into the wondrous mystery of God’s incredible mercy. The Lord gives us every opportunity in this life to accept Him and to return His love – even (perhaps) at the moment of our death. So sad will those be who reject that love and mercy.
When meditating on the readings for today, there was one line from St. Paul that stood out for me: “I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.”
Some people falsely believe that the Catholic Faith oppresses its people with guilt and shame. I have found it to be exactly the opposite. Truth is truly freedom. Some religions teach that unless a person believes in Jesus, he/she is automatically condemned to hell. Our Church teaches that the more Truth you have been blessed with, the more responsible you will be when you are judged by God. Therefore, if you were born in a part of the world where you were not privileged to learn about the Savior, Jesus – or perhaps you were raised in a family of atheists – the all fair, all loving Judge would take all of this into account. God is all justice, but thankfully, He is all mercy as well. It is His desire that all of His children that He created be one day reunited with Him in His heavenly kingdom. He will not step on our free will, however. Love without free will is not real love – it’s control.
The Catholic church also believes in purgatory – a place that many of us will go after our death to be purified, since “Nothing impure may enter heaven.” (Revelation 21:27) Many Christians don’t believe in purgatory. It is true that the word purgatory is not mentioned in the bible, however, neither is the word “Trinity,”and we know for certain that the Trinity exists.
We are told in Maccabees (a book that Martin Luther had removed from his bible) that it is a good thing to pray for the dead (2 Maccabees 12: 43-45). If they were already in hell or heaven, our prayers would be pointless. It is ever true that Christ redeemed us by His sacrifice on the cross. Without that sacrifice, we would all be doomed. If we are truly repentant, He, in His great love and mercy, does forgive us. He has given us the sacrament of reconciliation as a fount of grace to restore and strengthen us when we sin.
If you don’t believe in purgatory, think about this – A parent grounds a child for coming in past curfew. The next morning he/she sincerely apologizes for the worry he must have caused his parents in being late. His parents forgive him, and give him a great big hug. They do not release him from his punishment, however. It must be still be served. That’s what purgatory is! In God’s great mercy, He gives us this opportunity to be purified after death, so that we may, at some point, shine in the light of His glory!
What can we do to share the great news of God’s mercy with others? Will we be like the “good son” in the prodigal son story today and be angry with God for accepting people who convert during the last moments of their lives? Will we be jealous? Is God not free to execute His mercy in the way that He wishes?
We should also celebrate and be overjoyed with a turn toward the Lord, no matter when that change occurs in someone’s life. We are all on our own spiritual paths – some take longer to arrive than others, and that’s o.k.
It should be our goal to help bring others to Jesus through fervent prayer, personal sacrifices and evangelization. Are we truly worried about the salvation of our adoptive brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, in our community and in our neighborhoods, in our own families… OR are we just concerned about ourselves?
I watched an interview with a woman who once died on the operating table, and was shocked back into life. During the time she was dead, Jesus showed her heaven, hell and purgatory. When discussing Hell, she said that it is so bad that she wouldn’t even want the murderer of her child to go there. It is FOREVER – no hope for relief! If this is true, we should do all that we can to help our brothers and sisters to choose God, to choose Christ – to choose life!
We must “plug in” to Jesus each day through reading God’s Word and through prayer. If we can go to daily mass or adoration, we can obtain further graces there. If we allow God that time each day to fill us with graces to overflowing, He can use each of us to bring His light to everyone with whom we come into contact. Smile and greet everyone with sincerity and kindness. Mother Theresa said, “Joy is a net of Love by which you catch souls.” Let us be joyful so that others will see the peace that God has place in our hearts. Seeing this inexplicable joy, others will want to know our secret – that God loves each of us as if we were His only child , and He wants to shower us with His mercy – if we but turn to Him.